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Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone

Harry Potter 1.1 The Boy Who Lived Synopsis 

The Dursleys of Number Four Privet Drive were pleased to declare that they were perfectly normal. They couldn’t accept that nonsense, so they were the last people you would expect to be involved in anything strange or mysterious.

Mr. Dursley was the director of a drill-making business called Grunnings. He had almost no neck, was a big, stocky man, and a massive moustache. Mrs. Dursley was blonde, thin, and had a nearly twice-as-large neck as average, which was useful because she spent a lot of time peering over garden fences to observe neighbours. There was no better boy anywhere, in Dudley’s opinion, than the Dursleys’ young son.

Vernon Dursley notices strange happenings on his way to work: a cat on Privet Drive appears to be reading a map and people in colorful clothes wander the streets. Mr. Dursley tries to ignore these oddities, but during the lunch hour he sees more people dressed oddly. He hears some mention of the Potters and their son, Harry; one even stops Mr. Dursley, telling him he must be glad “You know who” is gone. All of this reminds Vernon that the Dursleys have a shameful secret and why they pretend the Potters never existed. Arriving home, Mr. Dursley hears television news about unexpected shooting stars and owls flying during the day. Previously unwilling to discuss the Potters with his wife, Petunia eventually verifies that her nephew’s name is Harry. Vernon Dursley sleeps restlessly.

Later that night, a mysterious figure appears on Privet Drive. Albus Dumbledore, a wizard, uses an object called Damper to turn off all the street lamps. Dumbledore turns to the cat, who transforms into a witch named Professor McGonagall. They discuss how recent celebrations have intrigued “Muggles”. Dumbledore confirms that James and Lily Potter were killed the night before (October 31st) by the dark wizard Lord Voldemort. He also tried to kill his one-year-old son Harry, who is somehow involved in causing the Dark Lord’s death. Voldemort is also often referred to as “You-Know-Who” by those who are afraid to speak his name. Harry, according to Dumbledore, is taken to Privet Drive by someone named Hagrid.

A short while later, the enormous Hagrid shows up on a flying motorcycle holding a newborn in his arms. The young person is left at Number Four’s door along with a letter that is addressed to Petunia Dursley by Dumbledore. McGonagall was disappointed that young Harry, who became an overnight sensation, would have to grow up around such people. Hagrid mounts his bicycle once more, McGonagall transforms back into a cat, and Dumbledore restarts the streetlights; the three depart in silence.

Harry Potter 1.1 The Boy Who Lived Analysis

Harry Potter makes history when he is brought into the seemingly most normal family in all of Britain: the Dursleys. Not only are they “normal,” but they are also apparently quite mundane, boring and opposed to anything remotely out of the ordinary in their boring and routine lives, although there may be a particular reason for some of their behaviors. Only gradually do readers realize that a magical world populated by witches and wizards co-exists covertly with non-magical humans, known as “muggles”. The strange characters wandering the streets dressed in rather extravagant clothes are the first indication of this hidden society. Little has been revealed about what has happened recently, although it has created some noteworthy activities that have spread to the Muggle world. The scar on little Harry’s forehead will clearly be a lasting reminder that sinister events must have occurred, resulting in the child being orphaned. The actions of Dumbledore, McGonagall and Hagrid lead us to believe that Harry is much more special than a simple orphan who needs a home, although little is explained here. And although Professor Dumbledore leaves the boy a letter, presumably explaining everything to the Dursleys, any information it contains is hidden, for now, from readers. We, like Harry, will gradually discover what happened and learn about this extraordinary world hidden in small fragments, although the title of this chapter, “The Boy Who Lived”, as well as the scar on little Harry, indicates that he must have had a near fatal injury. Experience. Judging by Vernon Dursley’s behavior, he may already know more about this hidden world than readers are initially led to believe. The conversation between Minerva McGonagall and Albus Dumbledore in this chapter is designed to bring various points of information to the reader without having to explicitly state them. One of the basic principles of writing is “show, don’t tell,” which can make it difficult to illuminate the background needed for understanding. Specifically, we need to know about Voldemort’s existence and his downfall, and this is communicated to us by this conversation. We also need to know that there is a reason Dumbledore put Harry with his relatives, and the conversation is also designed to inform us that there is a reason, but it has yet to be disclosed. Furthermore, this conversation establishes the character of both McGonagall and Dumbledore, and the relationship between them, as Headmaster and trusted assistant. The student could benefit from studying this brief interaction and everything it tells us.

Other commentators have noted that the author is very strong on what is called “set and pay” – creating a situation and then suddenly resolving it. Sometimes the setup and payment are contained in one chapter, other times they span multiple chapters or even multiple books. This chapter, in fact, is an example of montage (the list of strange things that happen in the Dursleys’ neighborhood and the discovery that they are connected to the Dursley family) and payment (revealing the reason for the events and the arrival of the newborn Harry ). Students are encouraged to review the work for preparations and payments and to determine how they improve the “holding power” of the book and the series as a whole. We will note that while the setting and the outcome are a writing staple for the film industry, the Harry Potter films are not as rich in this as the books; we believe this is due to the amount of material that has to be removed from a novel to fit two hours of film. To maintain the necessary elements of the story, some of the less important staging events had to be removed.

We will learn about the wizarding world through Harry’s eyes: in the whole series there are only five chapters, including this one, which are written independently from his point of view. These chapters are found at the beginning of each book and give us information that is still unknown to Harry. The other chapters are: Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire Chapter 1, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince Chapter 1 and Chapter 2 and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Chapter 1. These are the only times readers have access to information Harry doesn’t have. In general, we only see events when and how Harry experiences them.

Evidence indicates that Harry was born on July 31, 1980 and was orphaned on October 31, 1981, Halloween night, when he was one year and three months old. Critics point out the lack of trick or treating and similar celebrations on Privet Drive that night, but it must be said that we never actually see Privet Drive on the 31st; it’s November 1st when Vernon Dursley leaves for work, and later that night when Dumbledore, McGonagall and Hagrid arrive.

Evidence also suggests that there is a day between the death of Harry’s parents and his arrival at Privet Drive; Harry is orphaned on October 31st 1981 and the story begins with Vernon Dursley leaving for work on the morning of November 1st. This caused speculation among readers; Is there a case of dates or is the “missing day” an intentional addition by the author? Many readers believed that the events of that day would be important, perhaps even crucial, to the events of the seventh book.

There is also a contradiction: November 1, 1981 was actually a Sunday and the book says that day is Tuesday. There are similar minor internal conflicts throughout the series. These mistakes or oversights do not detract from the scope of the story, so while they may be mentioned, they are delivered more as a curiosity than something readers worry about. Readers should also be aware of the television news reports of flying owls seen throughout the day. This is an early reference to the owl postal system of the wizarding world. Voldemort’s death likely unleashed a huge flurry of magical couriers carried by owls that Muggles have spotted.

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Harry Potter 1.1 The Boy Who Lived Study Questions

  1. Why would the Dursleys consider being related to the Potters a “shameful secret”?
  2. Who are the robed people Mr. Dursley sees in the streets?
  3. What might a “Muggle” be?
  4. What exactly is the cat on Privet Drive?
  5. Who might “You-Know-Who” be? Why isn’t this person referred to by a given name?
  6. Why does Dumbledore believe the celebrations may be premature?
  7. How did Harry’s parents die?
  8. Why is Harry left with the Dursleys rather than a Wizard family?
  9. Why does McGonagall seem concerned about Harry being raised by the Dursleys?

 

 

 

 

 

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